When it’s your birthday and your wife asks you what kind of cake you want, and you answer Banoffe Pie, you would think that your pie was a good as done, right? Well not when you are married to a blogger who then replies, but I already did a Banoffee Pie! Pervious posts aside, I did really try to stick with the spirit of the request, I just shook it up a bit. Q and I really wanted chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, but we decided to be kind and give Stephen his heart’s desire, since it was his big day. Banoffe Pie is one of the richest and most decadent desserts out there, and this cake does not stray from that path. We made a 4 layer dulce de leche cake, filled with dulce de leche swiss meringue buttercream, sliced bananas, and graham cracker crumbs. Topped with more swiss meringue buttercream, a layer of graham cracker crumbs, whipped cream and a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce. Bliss.
This cake is my very first foray into creating my own cake. I used to be a terrible baker, for the single reason that I find it hard to follow directions. I am always so tempted to add my own flair, to personalize, to “improve”. This served me well in cooking, and allowed me to really get a feel for ingredients and the flavor profile. It was a little less than successful when it came to baking. It scared me off, and I left the baking to others for years. My grandmother is a truly amazing baker, and to this day is in charge of every birthday cake in my family- including her own. If I had not moved across the country, I probably never would have learned to bake. But I can’t ship a cake from Chicago to San Francisco. Well, even if I could, my 85 year old grandma doesn’t even drive. So how would it get to the post office?
When my kids starting having birthdays, I dusted off my pride and tried to bake their cakes. I probably only have a few years before they roll their eyes at me and tell me they want a store bought cake. (please God, no!) 5 years ago I made a Martha Stewart monkey cake for Q’s first birthday, and it turned out great. Even better- people acted so impressed! So for years I have stuck with Martha, and followed along religiously. And it’s been great.
Stephen wanted a Banoffee Pie for his birthday, but like I said- it’s been done. Also- pie does not say birthday. Pie says I had a bad day, or I am going to a potluck, or happy Sunday. It does not say birthday. For a birthday we need cake. So I decided to make banoffee pie into a cake. All the same amazing components, turned upside down. Dulce de leche cake, brought to us by Q’s birthday cupcakes last year. (from Martha Stewart’s cupcake book, I know when to stick with a good thing) Dulce de leche swiss meringue buttercream, since I mastered the SMB this summer, I am never going back. Graham crackers and chocolate sauce act as accents, and each later has paper thin fresh bananas, covered with dulce de leche SMB. It was such a success we all ate cake for breakfast too. (what?, bananas are totally breakfast food)
You can buy pre-made dulce de leche. It will save you three or so hours on the total cook time of the cake. You can also make your own. I have used the slow cooker method with great success, but I am always a little panicky about a potential kitchen catastrophe. I’ve also tried the stove top method, but it takes the longest and requires the most attention. I actually really prefer the oven method, where you pour the sweetened condensed milk into a baking dish, set it in a water bath, cover and come back in a few hours. I bake at 325 and it takes me just under 3 hours to get the consistency I like. You will have enough for both the cake and icing recipes, and some left over for apples, or spoons, or fingers. I’m pretending that I scraped the dulce de leche in the photo to show you the creamy caramel like consistency. (Really I just wanted to eat a big spoon full.) If you use this method, be very careful when removing from the oven. The water in the bottom pan is obviously hot.
To make the cake preheat the oven to 350. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar on medium high until light and fluffy. On medium low, add the eggs, one at a time. Add the dulce de leche and mix until incorporated. Add the oil and and vanilla and mix. Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk in turn, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined.
Divide between two prepared cake pans. I butter the pan, then put a parchment round, and butter the top of the round. It’s easy to get the right size if you put your cake pan on top of the parchment on a cutting board, then run a knife around the pan. You can use 6″ or 8″ pans. I used 6″ and got pretty tall layers. 8″ would give you slightly shorter but wider layers. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes, looking for a tester to come out clean and the cakes to pull from the side of the pan. Rotating the pans once during baking is always a good idea. Sometimes I forget, and it hasn’t killed me yet.
Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Then run a knife around the outside, and invert onto a plate. Slide gently onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Once cool, cut each layer in half. You can trim them up at this point to. Mine had a bit that sunk a little in the middle, so I trimmed off the top before I divided the layer. I actually like when this happens, as I get to taste the cake ahead of time.
While the cakes are cooling make the Swiss meringue buttercream. In a double boiler consisting of your mixer bowl and a small pot of simmering water, whisk the egg whites, sugar and salt constantly. Once the mixture has heated to the point of melting the sugar, test by running the mixture between your fingers to make sure you don’t feel any grains, remove the bowl to the mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment.
Whisk the mixture on medium high until the mixture cools. I test this by feeling the outside of the mixing bowl. The process usually takes 8-10 minutes. One cool, add the butter, one cube at a time until incorporated. Switch to the paddle attachment. Then add the dulce de leche and mix on low until it deflates. About 2 minutes. Switch to medium high, and beat until the icing is creamy. About 5 minutes. If the icing falls apart on you, stick it in the fridge for 10 minutes. This hardens the butter just enough to bring the whole thing together.
To make the chocolate sauce, melt the chopped chocolate, agave and butter in a saucepan over a pan of simmering water. Stir constantly with a silicone spatula. Once the sauce is smooth and shiny, set the pan aside.
Whip the cream with a pinch of sugar and a tiny splash of vanilla. The cake is so rich, I did not want the whipped cream to be sweet, since the cake is so rich. You don’t need much of it, but you can save the extra to serve on your individual pieces if people want extra. I recently watched a youtube video that showed how to make the perfect whipped cream. I have been doing it wrong all this time! Apparently you are supposed to start with cold cream, and whip it on low, this makes smaller bubbles that are sturdier- harder to deflate. I beat my cream on 2 for 7 or 8 minutes, and it did indeed make the best whipped cream. So I am a high speed whipper no loner!
To assemble the cake put one section on a cake tray. I put strips of wax paper around the bottom to catch any drippings when I decorate. Put 2/3 cup frosting and spread to the edges. Cover the layer. Pour 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs evenly over top. ( I did not do this step, but after eating the cake I think it’s the perfect thing to add. We all liked the top layer best, which had the graham crackers) Arrange a layer of bananas.
Stack the next layer of cake and continue the process until you reach the top layer.One you place the top layer, cover the whole cake with a crumb coat of icing and set it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes to harden.
Remove the cake and ice it liberally.Pour 1/4 cup graham cracker powder on top, then pipe the border with whipped cream. I used a star tip in a pastry bag. Take a spoon and drizzle the chocolate sauce across the center in any pattern you like.
Serve on a plate that has been drizzled with the chocolate sauce, and some of the left over dulce de leche. Our birthday boy wanted to extra chocolate sauce on the side too.
Happy Birthday to the best friend, husband and Dad I know. And thank you for sharing your big day with the kids, who I am pretty sure stole your wish.
- ~dulce de leche~
- 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 1⅓ cup sugar
- ½ cup flavorless oil, I use sunflower or grapeseed
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup dulce de leche
- 4 bananas, sliced thinly
- 1 cup graham cracker grounds
- 5 egg whites
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
- pinch of salt
- 4 sticks of butter, room temperature, cubed
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup dulce de leche
- ~chocolate sauce~
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar
- ⅓ cup butter, room temperature, cubed
- ~whipped cream~
- ½ cup heavy cream
- pinch of sugar
- tiny dash of vanilla (1/4 teaspoon?)
- ~dulce de leche~
- Preheat the oven to 325º.
- Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a baking vessel that is ceramic or stone, not metal.
- Cover tightly with foil.
- Set that dish into a larger dish that has been filled with water, so that the condensed milk is surrounded by a water bath on the outside.
- Bake for 2-3 hours, looking for a deep golden color.
- (or buy prepared dulce de leche)
- Preheat the oven to 350º.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
- In a mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time.
- Add the dulce de leche and mix until incorporated.
- Add vanilla and oil and mix.
- With the mixer on low, add in the flour and buttermilk in batches. Start and end with the flour.
- Divide mixture into two 6″ or 8″ cake pans.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake it set and the sides pull away from the pan.
- Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the outside and flip onto a plate.
- Cool completely on a cooling rack.
- Once cool, cut each cake in half.
- Whisk egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of the mixer by hand.
- Stand the bowl of the mixer over a pan of simmering water, be careful not to let the mixer bowl touch the water.
- Whisk constantly until the egg whites heat up and dissolve the sugar. Test by running the mixture between your fingers, making sure you feel no sigar grains.
- Bring the mixer bowl to the mixer and whisk on medium high until the mixture cools.
- Determine this by feeling the outside of the bowl. This usually takes about 8-10 minutes.
- Once the bowl feels cool, add the butter one cube at a time, on medium low, until all the butter is incorporated.
- Add the vanilla.
- Switch to the paddle attachment.
- Add the dulce de leche and mix on low until the mixture deflates. About 2 minutes.
- Raise to medium high and beat until the frosting is nice and creamy. About 5 minutes.
- If the frosting seems too soupy, put the whole bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden the butter, then try to beat it until it comes together.
- ~chocolate sauce~
- In a double boiler, or a saucepan on top of another pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate, agave and butter.
- Stir with a silicone spatula constantly, until you have a creamy sauce.
- To assemble the cake put one section on a cake tray.
- Put ⅔ cup frosting and spread to the edges. Cover the layer.
- Pour ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs evenly over top.
- Arrange a layer of bananas.
- Stack the next layer of cake and continue the process until you reach the top layer.
- One you place the top layer, cover the whole cake with a crumb coat of icing and set it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes to harden.
- Remove the cake and ice it liberally.
- Pour ¼ cup graham cracker powder on top, then pipe the border with whipped cream. I used a star tip in a pastry bag.
- Take a spoon and drizzle the chocolate sauce across the center in any pattern you like.
- Serve on a plate that has been drizzled with the chocolate sauce, and some of the left over dulce de leche.